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Int J Yoga. 2019 Jan-Apr;12(1):3-28. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_65_17.

Role of Yoga and Mindfulness in Severe Mental Illnesses: A Narrative Review.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India.

Abstract

Background:

Yoga has its origin from the ancient times. It is an integration of mind, body, and soul. Besides, mindfulness emphasizes focused awareness and accepting the internal experiences without being judgemental. These techniques offer a trending new dimension of treatment in various psychiatric disorders.

Aims:

We aimed to review the studies on the efficacy of yoga and mindfulness as a treatment modality in severe mental illnesses (SMIs). SMI includes schizophrenia, major depressive disorder (MDD), and bipolar disorder (BD).

Methods:

We conducted a literature search using PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane Library with the search terms "yoga," "meditation," "breathing exercises," "mindfulness," "schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders," "depressive disorder," and "bipolar disorder" for the last 10-year period. We also included relevant articles from the cross-references.

Results:

We found that asanas and pranayama are the most commonly studied forms of yoga for schizophrenia. These studies found a reduction in general psychopathology ratings and an improvement in cognition and functioning. Some studies also found modest benefits in negative and positive symptoms. Mindfulness has not been extensively tried, but the available evidence has shown benefits in improving psychotic symptoms, improving level of functioning, and affect regulation. In MDD, both yoga and mindfulness have demonstrated significant benefit in reducing the severity of depressive symptoms. There is very sparse data with respect to BD.

Conclusion:

Both yoga and mindfulness interventions appear to be useful as an adjunct in the treatment of SMI. Studies have shown improvement in the psychopathology, anxiety, cognition, and functioning of patients with schizophrenia. Similarly, both the techniques have been established as an effective adjuvant in MDD. However, more rigorously designed and larger trials may be necessary, specifically for BD.

KEYWORDS:

Bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; mindfulness; schizophrenia; severe mental illnesses; yoga

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